On the occasion of the Mets’ first visit to Lakeland, Fla., this spring to play the Detroit Tigers, Terry Collins couldn’t resist taking a jab at his old pal, Jim Leyland. “Hey, Jimmy,” Collins shouted over to the Tigers skipper, “I was talking to the MLB jeweler the other day and he told me you guys already ordered your rings!”
Collins’ kidding was not without merit. After making the second biggest splash of the off-season — $214 million on Prince Fielder to join Miguel Cabrera and form arguably the most potent 3-4 hitters duo in all of baseball — the defending AL Central champion Tigers, with both the deepest lineup and starting rotation, figure to again make a shambles of the division they won by 15 games last season. The starting rotation, led by 24-game winner Justin Verlander, the Cy Young and MVP winner, has three other double-digit winners from last year in Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello. And, as if Fielder’s 38 homers and 120 RBI added to a lineup that had four other players with at least 19 homers last year wasn’t enough, Leyland also welcomes back left fielder Brennan Boesch, who had 16 homers and 54 RBI in 115 games before being lost for the season (and postseason) with a thumb injury. Nevertheless, there are issues for the Tigers, most importantly Austin Jackson’s ability to provide more on-base acumen out of the leadoff spot. All spring, Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon worked on adjustments with Jackson (who struck out 181 times last year and had an on-base pct. of just .317), instructing him to use a slightly wider stance, to choke up on the bat with two strikes and to cut down on the leg kick he used just before the pitcher delivers the ball. As even Leyland conceded, getting Jackson squared away in the leadoff spot was the most important thing the Tigers had to do this spring.
After replacing volatile Ozzie Guillen with low-key Robin Ventura, who comes into the job with no managerial experience, the Chicago White Sox underwent a partial rebuilding effort, allowing perennial 200-inning lefty and staff leader Mark Buehrle to leave as a free agent and trading 30-save closer Sergio Santos and oft-injured 24-homer/77-RBI left fielder Carlos Quentin for prospects. For Ventura to have a successful maiden season, he’s going to need Jake Peavy, hampered by injuries the last 2-1/2 years, to live up to his $16 million salary; No. 2 starter John Danks to develop consistency and justify the $65 million the Sox bestowed on him over the winter; second baseman Gordon Beckham to rediscover the batting form that made him a No. 1 draft pick, and, perhaps most important of all, Adam Dunn to recover from his horrific (.159, 177 strikeouts) first season of a $56 million, four-year contract and reemerge as a middle-of-the-order force. If that’s not enough, Ventura must also hope that hard-throwing setup man Chris Sale can make a successful switch to the starting rotation and that a reliable closer will emerge from among veteran lefty Matt Thornton or one of the rookies, Addison Reed/ Hector Santiago.
After a disastrous 2011 season, in which they used the disabled list 27 times for 16 different players including four starting pitchers, and during which their three best players, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span, missed a combined 266 games, the Minnesota Twins are just happy to come out of spring training with their team in tact. It’s the belief of both GM Terry Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire that, if the Twins can just stay healthy and Mauer and Morneau in particular can resemble the kind of players they once were, they can return to being a competitive force in the AL Central. With that in mind, Ryan did only some tinkering with a team that lost 99 games, signing shortstop Jamey Carroll in an effort to of shore up the defense, which committed the third-most errors (119) in baseball last year. They also signed Josh Willingham to replace free agent departee Mike Cuddyer in right, catcher/DH/first baseman Ryan Doumit, and back-of-the-rotation starter Jason Marquis. Gardenhire is leaning toward having Morneau, who missed 93 games with concussion syndrome, do a lot of DH-ing with Doumit playing first and possibly rookie Chris Parmelee emerging there later.
A lot of folks thought this was going to be the year the Kansas City Royals, with one of the best farms systems in baseball starting to bear fruit, finally would become contenders. But the Royals suffered a devastating loss in spring training when catcher Salvador Perez tore the meniscus in his knee and will miss the first two months of the season. And what looks potentially like one of the better offenses in the league is offset by a pitching staff that ranked 13th in the AL in ERA (4.82). The Cleveland Indians finished a surprising second (at 80-82) last year, but will be lucky to approach that after doing little this offseason.
CHICAGO WHITE SOXAlejandro de Aza will get an everyday chance either in left field or in center after going .320/.400/.520 with 12 steals in 54 games late last season. First baseman Paul Konerko (.300, 31, 105) has been a steady producer for more than a decade.
Who’s Not: Adam Dunn had a historically horrid season (.159, 11, 42, 177 Ks) in the first year of a four-year $56 million contract. Alex Rios also is looking for a bounce-back after batting a career-low .227.
Medical Report: Can Jake Peavy regain anything close to Cy Young form and front a rotation that lost lefty Mark Buehrle? He lost about 10 pounds after ankle surgery and groin problems limited him to 111 innings.
Kid Stuff: Looks they’ll go with De Aza in either left or center and 23-year-old Dayan Viciedo, the Cuban defector signed to a $10 million deal in 2009, in right.
CLEVELAND INDIANSCarlos Santana batted just .239 in his first full MLB season, but he provides good power production at the catcher position with 27 homers and 79 RBI. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (.273, 25, 92, 17 steals) is coming off a breakout season. Derek Lowe, acquired from Atlanta, returns to the AL.
Who’s Not: The pitcher formerly known as Indians rotation stalwart Fausto Carmona was not in spring training and placed on the restricted list after he was arrested in the Dominican Republic for identity fraud. Shin-Soo Choo (.259) took a step back last year after three straight .300 seasons.
DETROIT TIGERSCloser Jose Valverde was 47-for-47 in saves last season.
Who’s Not: Former Yanks prospect Austin Jackson slipped from .293/.345/.400 as a rookie in 2010 to .249/.317/.374 last year, although he still scored 90 runs and more than doubled his home-run production to 10.
Medical Report: DH Victor Martinez will miss the entire season after suffering a torn ACL over the winter. Reliever Al Alburquerque (aka Alberto Jose Alburquerque) isn’t expected back until at least midseason after undergoing elbow surgery.
Kid Stuff: 20-year-old righty Jacob Turner was among those competing for the No. 5 starter job until a bit of shoulder tendinitis got him demoted.
KANSAS CITY ROYALSEric Hosmer is a rising star, finishing third in AL Rookie of the Year (.293, 19, 78) after a May call-up. Mike Moustakas will play third after finishing strong with a .352/.380/.580 slash line in September. Ex-Met Jeff Francoeur gets another year in right field after a solid bounce-back season (.287, 20, 87, 22 steals).
Who’s Not: The Royals made a bold move to acquire lefty Jonathan Sanchez from the Giants after he went just 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts last season. Former No. 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar has a 5.29 ERA in his first four big league seasons.
Medical report: Closer Joakim Soria will miss the season after having Tommy John surgery, and catcher Salvador Perez (knee) is out at least two months.
Kid Stuff: After batting .312/.380/.487 last season at Triple-A Omaha, Lorenzo Cain will open the season in center.
MINNESOTA TWINSCarl Pavano has been among their most durable players the past two seasons, posting a workable 4.02 ERA over 65 starts?
Who’s Not: Matt Capps is the likely closer after Joe Nathan’s free-agent departure, but he had a 4.25 ERA in 69 appearances last year. Can Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit be expected to ably replace Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel?
Medical Report: Several former stars — Joe Mauer (knee), Justin Morneau (concussion), Francisco Liriano (elbow), etc — are all hoping for better health this year. Rebounding former Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya already reinjured his elbow, ending his season and possibly career.
- 2020 Democrats start two nights of debates in Detroit
- Hull City predictions and preview from Hull Live and BBC staff
- OPEC+ Deal Pot Looks Sweeter for Russia as Gulf Money Flows In
- Which celebrities have passed away so far this year?
- A misfit witch, a riotous robot and football heroes
- The Ties that Bind
- Rivals fans right about Everton
- Leeds and Bristol City big spenders; Reading lack firepower
- Every Championship club's summer transfer business rated
- Confessions of an Islamic State fighter
- POLITICO London Playbook: Countdown returns — Braveheart — In XS
- US stocks surge after White House delays key tariffs on China
- Tomorrow’s Gods: What is the future of religion?
- How art and culture can help us rethink time
- What next for Madonna?
- What’s on TV tonight: Poldark, the BBC Proms and Dragons' Den
- G20 summit 2019: Trump: Won't be raising tariffs for time being
- These are the celebrities who have passed away this year so far
- Introducing the Strictly Come Dancing class of 2019
- Strictly 2019 launch day revealed
2012 AL Central preview: With addition of Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers are looking like World Series contenders have 1605 words, post on www.nydailynews.com at April 4, 2012. This is cached page on Law Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.